Today this is for all my aspiring rappers out there.
Hip-Hop music makes up a lot of this blog you're reading. I critique it and show love to the artistry every chance I get.
I get asked questions from upcoming rappers like "What do you look for in albums?" "How can I make a great album?" As a former artist I'm here to tell you it's not easy and it's a process but I'm going to give you some jewels to work with so you can create some dope shit.
When I'm finished listening to your project what do you want me to take away from it? What's the message you're trying to convey to the listener? Do you want us to know you better. Know society better? What's the message?
You want to have this in mind before you even start recording. Sometimes it comes to you during the writing process. I liked to write my entire projects out then record and sometimes the message came to me halfway through my writing and it helped me finish the project strong.
Some artists write and record song by song and the message may come to them during a session. You'll usually be in a groove during the creative process when it comes.
Bottom line is the message is important and let's the world know what you have to say.
ASSEMBLE YOUR TEAM
First. Who's your engineer? He or She will be your best friend throughout this process. It should be someone with a great reputation. Ready to work. Someone you trust. Gives great input and will be honest with you. I recommend you work with one engineer. You can work with multiple but in my opinion that's a tougher task on the recording and the rhythm.
Producers? Who are some producers you want to work with? Reach out to them see what their prices are for production. If you can get free production great. Just reach out and sit down and explain to them your vision. What sound you're going for. Bring them into your world. This helps bring your vision to life.
Features? If you're in a crew of rappers and singers you'll be set. Let them know what you have in mind for them and be open to some suggestions if they have any. Not in a crew? Listen to some production and reach out to artists that FIT what you're trying to create. This goes for your crew comrades also.
Kendrick Lamar is a artist that does this very well. He doesn't look for the dopest rappers or singers in the game he base his features off if that artist fits what he's doing. He doesn't force the feature. Example. On "Complexion" on "To Pimp A Butterfly" he reaches out to Rapsody for a verse. It fits because she's a woman and the production on that track fits Rapsody's style. The outcome is a superb track.
EVERYONE MUST BE IN THE HUT
This can work for group albums or solo.
When it comes to your team I believe you will have a better overall album if you have your team at the majority of your sessions. You can get instant feedback and suggestions. You'll have more ears in the room and they may catch or hear something you may not see. You need to
Look at all the classic albums in hip-hop. The reason why "Low End Theory" by Tribe Called Quest is so great is that EVERYONE WERE APART OF THE SESSIONS. They didn't record separately. Phife (RIP) who admitted he wasn't a studio rat said he was in the studio 24/7 when they were working on that album and you saw the outcome. You heard the cohesiveness in the project.
Dr.Dre's "The Chronic" was the same way. Everyone was always in the studio even if they weren't recording on a particular song. They were in the hut. Supporting.
Noname's latest album "Telefone" is a great current example of this. A lot of decisions were made as a team whether if they were calculated or on the fly. Her team was intact and they were inseparable. Day in and day out they were together creating and they crafted a gem of a album.
This is my opinion and I prefer albums that have 1-3 producers. Not a different producer every track. If you do have a different producer every track make sure that all the production mesh together. "Illmatic" by Nas have tons of producers but all of the production is in the same realm. They don't all sound super different.
Cohesive production helps drive your message on your album home.
ORDER, ORDER, ORDER!
Song order fucking matters. After you finish recording everything. Look at it like a puzzle. Don't just throw what you think are the best songs all at the beginning of the project. Spread it out.
THE 1ST 3 TRACKS ARE KEY!
These tracks keep your listener on their toes and curious. If they're curious they will keep listening to your album and want to hear what's next. The first 3 tracks have to be attention grabbing.
Again look at "The Chronic." The first 3 tracks are a "Intro," "Fuck Wit Dre Day," and "Let Me Ride." Those first 3 tracks had everyone hooked and kept the listener wanting more and more.
Don't fall off after the first 3 tracks. Keep a steady pace and have a haymaker of a track in the cut waiting and place it on the tail end of the middle part of your album.
Wrap up your album. Like I asked earlier. What's the message? What's the lesson. Bring us home.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Do not rush your art. It's the worse thing you can do. Fuck a deadline. Set a deadline after EVERYTHING is finished. The mixing. The recording. The cover art. Everything.
Just focus on creating the best music you can and just take your time. There is no reason to rush.